Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK) - Introduction

In this chapter, we will learn what is CNTK, its features, difference between its version 1.0 and 2.0 and important highlights of version 2.7.

What is Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK)?

Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK), formerly known as Computational Network Toolkit, is a free, easy-to-use, open-source, commercial-grade toolkit that enables us to train deep learning algorithms to learn like the human brain. It enables us to create some popular deep learning systems like feed-forward neural network time series prediction systems and Convolutional neural network (CNN) image classifiers.

For optimal performance, its framework functions are written in C++. Although we can call its function using C++, but the most commonly used approach for the same is to use a Python program.

CNTK’s Features

Following are some of the features and capabilities offered in the latest version of Microsoft CNTK:

Built-in components

Usage of resources efficiently

Express our own networks easily

Measuring model performance

Version 1.0 vs Version 2.0

Following table compares CNTK Version 1.0 and 2.0:

Version 1.0 Version 2.0
It was released in 2016. It is a significant rewrite of the 1.0 Version and was released in June 2017.
It used a proprietary scripting language called BrainScript. Its framework functions can be called using C++, Python. We can easily load our modules in C# or Java. BrainScript is also supported by Version 2.0.
It runs on both Windows and Linux systems but not directly on Mac OS. It also runs on both Windows (Win 8.1, Win 10, Server 2012 R2 and later) and Linux systems but not directly on Mac OS.

Important Highlights of Version 2.7

Version 2.7 is the last main released version of Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit. It has full support for ONNX 1.4.1. Following are some important highlights of this last released version of CNTK.